You know it's Olympic season in the USA because Playboy has
unleashed its 'Women of the Summer Games' issue, where world
class female athletes are seen performing pole vaults, long
jumps, and backstrokes, completely in the air brushed buff.
Swimmer and photo subject Haley Cope accompanied her display
with the this inspiring message to young girls across America:
"I vote Republican, I worship Martha Stewart and I don't mind being
We are also getting bombarded with stories about how Athens is
"a city transformed" by the Olympic Midas touch. As International
Olympic Committee Chairman Jacques Rogge put it, "At Athens
the legacy will be a new airport, new metro, new suburban train,
.this is a legacy the Greeks will be proud of."
But don't let the gold, silver, or soft-core sexism fool you: These
Greek Olympics arrive bathed from head to toe in blood and dust.
You won't hear about it in NBC's gauzy coverage, but Amnesty
International estimates that anywhere between 40 and 150
construction workers died in work place accidents building
Olympic facilities. The new center right government of Costas
Karamanlis, terrified of international embarrassment for not having
a modernized infrastructure, turned the screws to finish facilities by
any means necessary
In the last push of round the clock preparation alone, 13 laborers
were killed at the service of making Athens, in the words of one
Olympic official, "habitable for a global audience".
As Andreas Zazopoulos, head of the Greek Construction Workers
Union said, `"We have paid for the Olympic games in blood."
Their deaths aren't the only cause of local anger.
The Karamanlis government has scuttled Greek law forbidding
foreign personnel from carrying weapons in the country by
allowing hundreds - perhaps thousands - of American, British
and Israeli Special Forces soldiers to be armed to the teeth
City authorities are also, according to Democracy Now, "rounding
up homeless people, drug addicts, and the mentally ill requiring
that psychiatric hospitals lock them up. Also affected by Athens
Olympic clean-up are refugees and asylum seekers, some of
whom are being targeted for detention and deportation in the days
leading up to the games."
But none of this is going unchallenged. There is a growing
movement of those sickened by Olympic fever. On Tuesday, 500
people, amid an atmosphere of tremendous repression, rallied
last Tuesday of behalf of the dead and olive wreaths were placed
on 13 crosses planted in the earth outside Greece's parliament.
Inmates of Korydallos Prison and five other prisons have protested
against the government's security decision to stop authorizing
parole during the games.
There is also a Greek based organization with the name,
"Revolutionary Struggle" that has been setting bombs in
uninhabited buildings. They released the following statement after
blowing up an empty police station
"With regard to the Olympic games we say that Greece's
transformation into a fortress, NATO's involvement, the presence
and activities of foreign intelligence units show clearly that (the
Olympics) are not a festival like Games organizers say, but it's a
They are absolutely right. We know it is a war because there are
casualties. 150 hard working people are dead.
They died so world dignitaries and CEOs could bask in the light of
athletic achievement not unlike the Greek and Roman Emperors of
old. The only difference between Bill Gates and Caligula is that
Caligula threw better parties.
Just like the dissidents slaughtered before Hitler's 1936 Olympics
in Berlin, or the protesting students massacred before the 1968
games in Mexico City, or those who died in Daryl Gates' police
custody in the lead up to the 1984 Los Angeles games, they have
joined the ranks of the Olympic martyrs.
May their blood forever stain every flag that's unfurled.
Dave Zirin (firstname.lastname@example.org) has a book coming out this Spring 2005, "What's My
Name Fool: Sports and Resistance in the United States"